You’ve seen multiple attempts to get in shape before from friends, or maybe you’ve tried yourself and failed. It’s very common especially during the New Year when everyone has big ambitious goals to finally get the body that they want.
They hit the ground running, knocking out those hard workouts and eating healthy. Then after a few weeks or months, they fall back onto their old behaviors and the cycle repeats itself over and over.
Now why is it that many people fail on their fitness journey? Here are a plethora of reasons on why that is and what to do about it:
1. Overestimating Calorie Burn and Underestimating Calorie Intake
In the past 50 years, our portion sizes have gotten bigger and while the amount of physical activity that we’re getting has declined. When people start their exercise programs, they think that because they did an intense workout consisting of weights and cardio, they have free reign to eat certain foods afterwards.
Although working out does improve your insulin sensitivity and burns calories, we greatly overestimate how much we actually do burn. In fact, studies have shown that calorie counters on machines such as an elliptical, bike, or treadmill overestimate by at least 15-20% because there are so many factors involved.
In regards to our portion sizes, most people don’t know exactly what true serving sizes look like or just how many calories their favorite foods have. Not only that, there are hidden calories in sauces, fats, beverages, and little bites and licks here and there that add up which they’re not aware of.
Whenever a client tells me that they don’t eat much food and yet they’re not losing any weight, I tell them to record everything that they eat and give them a sheet on what portion sizes actually look like. I had a client tell me that she probably eats about 1700 calories. But after tracking, she was closer to 2300. No wonder she wasn’t making any progress, what she was doing was barely keeping her at maintenance.
So what do you do in this case? Instead of focusing on burning a certain amount of calories during a workout, which makes people justify that they can eat certain foods, opt performance goals. Every week you want to be improving from your last workout in some way, whether it’s doing more sets, reps, weight, resting less, etc. If you’re doing mostly cardio, increase the duration, the incline level, or move faster.
On the nutrition front, start by tracking logging your food and tracking your calories and macros. That makes you conscious about your food choices, gives you a real idea of how much you’re actually eating, and what calorie range for you to eat at for your fat loss goals.
2. You Have an All-or-Nothing Approach
This is a common problem for many people and I used to have it as well. There’s a belief that if we aren’t perfect in everything we do in order to reach our goals, then we’re not succeeding and we’re a failure.
People who get stuck in thinking this way usually never reach their goal, since they end up doing nothing when roadblocks come their way. They just say screw it and go back their old behaviors and nothing changes.
“Work got really crazy…I didn’t have any time to meal prep so I just ate takeout the entire week.”
“I was stuck in meetings all day, I didn’t have any energy to work out after so I just went home instead.”
“I had a slice of pizza and a piece of cake at a party the other day. I cheated so bad on my diet. I lost control afterward because screw it I already messed up, why bother?”
When you have that all-or-nothing mindset, you’re destined to fail. The starting fresh on Monday thinking is part of it as well. It sounds appealing, but it’s also dangerous. Have you ever been strict with your eating habits all throughout the week, then blow it over the weekend? And then you look forward to Monday to really “get serious”. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Fortunately you can break this way of thinking and retrain your brain to a growth mindset. The first step is acknowledging that perfectionism isn’t something to strive for. Nobody is perfect. Instead, focus on being consistent and take each day one step at a time, striving to be better than yesterday.
If you slip or mess up, know that it’s part of the process and don’t lose your momentum and wait until next week. Be prepared for roadblocks and have backup plans for them. If you’re going to be traveling or stuck in meetings, be proactive and pack healthy snacks with you. Have a work function where you have no control over the menu? Pick the healthiest items there and eat smaller portions.
Got a crazy work schedule this week? Look at gaps in your calendar and put in a time for you to work out. Can’t make it to the gym? Do a bodyweight circuit wherever you may be. You can always make the best out of any situation.
3. Trying to do Everything at Once and Burn Out
Transforming your body and getting in shape is something we all want to do as soon as possible. Like, tomorrow. Now going back to the all-or-nothing mindset, when we start, we go balls deep trying to dial in everything. Intense workouts every day, salads in each meal, no booze at all. It works...for at least a little while. Eventually you get burnt out trying to maintain all of these new habits and quit.
By doing too much too soon, your chances of failing increase. Fitness is a long game, and you can’t expect to undo months or years of inactivity and bad eating habits in weeks. Real lasting change takes time.
Look at the people who’ve made incredible progress in short periods. Yes they look great in the before and after photos, but what happens months down the line is that they revert back to their old habits and regain a lot of the weight back. You can see that with the competitors from The Biggest Loser.
Now there are folks who can succeed by being extremely aggressive with revamping their entire lifestyle. It can work but chances are if you tried and haven’t succeeded, then it isn’t for you.
Instead, the better approach is to focus on one healthy habit at a time. Start with the easiest thing you can change, and stick with it until it becomes a part of your lifestyle then move onto the next task. It can be just getting one serving of lean protein with each meal, or getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
All of these little habits add up. By laying down a solid foundation brick by brick, you have a higher chance for success.
4. Lack of Accountability and Direction
Accountability is huge. By having someone such as a friend, coach, or mentor keeping you on track, you have a much better chance of reaching your goals, even when you don’t feel like doing so.
A great coach or mentor will tell you what to focus on, encourage you when things start to suck, and give you a little tough love when you need it. Some of the best athletes and high performing individuals such as CEOs have coaches, why not you?
Not getting anywhere near to close where you want to be with your fat loss goals? Unsure on what exactly you need to be doing to achieve your goals? Or maybe you’ve hit a plateau and need a jumpstart. Then I’m here to help. Check out my online coaching page, fill out my form and let’s chat.
Turning Failure Into Success
If you’ve attempted to lose fat and get in shape multiple times and have failed, don’t give up. You can bounce back and succeed by taking a different approach this time around. Start with improving yourself each day and avoiding the common mental pitfalls.